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Cincinnati Sisters Head to DC For Dream Act Push

Sr. Andrea Koverman, Sr. Tracy Kemme and Sr. Jean Miller left Cincinnati on their way to DC yesterday for the Catholic Day of Action with Dreamers organized by PICO, Faith in Public Life and others. These sisters will risk arrest as they participate in nonviolent civil disobedience after a press conference starting at 10:30. We will share a live stream of IJPC’s Facebook page.

Jose, Sr. Jean, Sr. Andrea and Sr. Tracy

We asked for our friends to share their reasons for participating in this day of action and risking arrest.

Sr. Tracy Kemme:

 I’ve worked with immigrants for more than a decade, both pastorally and in pursuit of comprehensive immigration reform.  Recently, I’ve done all I could to support the movement for justice that brave Dreamers are leading across the country: call and visit my legislators, join rallies, write op-eds, and participate in an Ohio letter campaign that collected 17,000+ letters.  Our elected officials are not listening.  Protecting our immigrant youth should be a no-brainer, and yet Congress fails repeatedly to do their job.  I’m ashamed and outraged by the immoral inaction that holds Dreamers and their families in limbo.

So when the call came from D.C. to participate in nonviolent disobedience in support of Dreamers, I felt drawn into discernment.  I knew how strongly I felt about the issues, but was God indeed calling me to risk arrest?  Did the action make sense strategically?  Would Dreamers support us doing this? I spent much time in prayer and conversation, and particularly talking to IJPC’s own Jose was helpful to sort through motivations, hesitations, passion, and prayers.  In the end, the call became clear.  As a follower of Jesus, I cannot sit idly by while our country oppresses young people and uses them as bargaining chips.   Our Dreamers aren’t giving up the fight, and I want them to know that we won’t either.  They are here to stay!

When I risk arrest with other Catholic leaders on Tuesday, I will hold in my heart the hundreds of immigrants I know and love dearly.  I will stand for Jose, all the Y.E.S. members, and their families.  I will stand for my fellow parishioners at Holy Family Church who live in daily uncertainty because of our unjust immigration policies.  I will stand for Maribel Trujillo and all the families that have been torn apart.  And I will stand for all those who have given their energy to this movement across the country.  We go in hope that the Holy Spirit may change hearts, and we count on your prayers.  Clean Dream Act now!

Sr. Andrea Koverman:

Our concern and apprehension has grown with each day that passes without a moral resolution to the expiration of DACA. We have signed petitions, made phone calls, written letters, met with elected officials, and stood in local demonstrations all to no avail. We feel the sting of injustice and pangs of guilt as we helplessly witness the escalation in arrests and threats of deportation of young immigrant community members that we promised to protect through DACA. We have betrayed their trust. These are the young people who we have helped shape and educate, who have grown into some of the most hard-working ambitious people we know, who are eager to contribute to the well-being of the county they call home. They embody all the values and characteristics Americans espouse but lack the legal status to experience the freedom of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness the rest of us are granted through our citizenship.

As a Christian and a Sister of Charity of Cincinnati, I take very seriously the gospel mandate to love one another as God loves us. It is not a choice but our responsibility to take care of one another, to stand up for one another not only in words and prayers but in action. We don’t need to know someone affected by our broken immigration system to be called to this responsibility, but I have been blessed to know many. In the years I spent living on the border near El Paso and crossing regularly into the area of Mexico around Juarez, this issue became very personal as I witnessed the poverty and violence that pushed people to risk crossing the border. I heard stories that broke my heart open and gave my nightmares as any jugement I had about the legality of their actions dissipated. They have as much right to be safe and prosper as I do. I saw people I met as God does, beloved members of my own family.

When I moved to Cincinnati and began working at the Intercommunity Justice & Peace Center, I was further blessed to have a young colleague, Jose Cabrera  who is a “Dreamer.” He manages the YES program-Youth Educating Society-made up of young DACA recipients and their allies. They help society understand the realities of the immigration issue by sharing their personal stories. Through them people come to learn what it is like to have been brought here at an age to young to remember, being raised as an American full of the promise of thier potential and the opporutunity to be successful with hard work and determination, only to then be denied what they’ve worked for while threatened with deportation to countries that would often be as foreign to them as they would be to you or me.

I am willing to risk personal arrest as I take a public stand to demand a clean DREAM Act with a path to citizenship for Jose and the other 800,000 estimated Dreamers. I want to raise awareness of how critical it is not to let them be used as negotiation pawns in the broader conversation of comprehensive immigration reform. This needs to happen now; all people of good conscience need to take action and demand that it does. I will stand firm at our nonviolent demonstration when told to step aside to communicate that we will not stand by and let our Dreamers lose their status. When faced with an injustice, a prophetic sister in my community quoted what Martin Luther said in 1521, “Here I stand. I can do no other.” Me, too.

Sr. Jean Miller:

My call to stand with DACA Recipients and Dreamers came 65 years ago when I committed myself to the Gospel of Jesus with my vows to the Sisters of Charity. That call challenged me to stand with the vulnerable, the poor, those treated unjustly or violently. These Dreamers and DACA recipients are surely being treated unjustly and sometimes violently.

The Gospel called me to other countries where I saw the suffering, violence, poverty as well as the beauty, strength, wisdom, compassion of the people of those countries. Sadly at times I even discovered that our country was partly responsible for the pain and suffering in those countries from which parents and young people needed to escape.

Since returning to the United States I continued to walk with many Dreamers in a variety of different ways. I am sorry that they must struggle so much here in our country that claims immigration roots. They are my neighbors, my co-workers, my friends. I watch them giving so much of their culture, wisdom, economics and joy to our country. Risking arrest is the least I can do for people who welcome
me in their homes, hearts and Lives. May every letter sent, call made, vote taken, rally held and prayer said finally give them what they deserve, A Clean Dream Act.

I would like to add one of the many stories that will be in my heart and prayers on Tuesday when we raise our voices and bodies for them. This story is about a Honduran Mother and her 10-year old son. They had experienced the death of a relative, who would not collaborate with the drug cartel. This Mother worried for the future of her son so they left family behind and traveled the dangerous trip through Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico and finally crossed into the U.S. seeking safety but finding detention centers and lengthy processes. They continue to do whatever is required so that one day the freedom we cherish may be theirs.